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Published June 2, 2016

At one point during X-Men: Apocalypse, we’re told that the titular villain always has four chosen followers. Fair enough, I thought. Not overly subtle, but it works nicely.

“Ah,” chimed in another character, “like the four horsemen of the apocalypse!”

Right. Thanks for that, but I don’t believe we really needed to be hit over our heads with –

“They got that one from the bible!” he continues.

Oh, boy. I prayed (ironically enough) it would end, but, alas, it did not.

“Or the bible got it from them!” the first character replied.

Please, please stop.

The film actually begins excellently, in Ancient Egypt. Everything before and including the opening credits is absolutely fantastic. The showcase of the original horsemen’s powers, the funky titles with that familiar and awesome music over the top (in fact, John Ottman‘s entire score is pretty damned great). I was very, very excited for the rest of the film after seeing the first ten minutes.

Apocalypse and his four horsemen survey Egypt

From here onwards, though, its a roller-coaster of quality. There are two more thrilling sequences (one for Quicksilver and one for Wolverine), and then a lot of clunky dialogue and exposition; why are these friends addressing each other by their full names? I was a little confused by where we began with Mystique (not blue very often in this film, annoyingly; a little against character, no?); the last scene in Days of Future Past revealed that she, under the guise of William Stryker, had taken Wolverine to be experimented upon. In this film she’s just out and about in the real world, while Stryker happily continues his experiments. Not sure what the hell happened there, but I suppose it has been a decade since the events of the last movie, but why set it up if you weren’t going to show us anything?

After over three thousand years of unconsciousness, the powerful mutant Apocalypse is roused and immediately plans to destroy the world and “build a better one”. He recruits disciples and amplifies their power, and the X-Men have to stop him. Three of these horsemen are new recruits who aren’t given a whole lot to do until the final fight scene, but the fourth is Michael Fassbender‘s Magneto. It’s always pleasantly weird when someone actually acts in these films, and it’s a real pity that the character’s entire arc occurs over the course of ten minutes towards the beginning of the film.

Apocalypse holds Mystique by her neck

Oscar Isaac and James McAvoy also bring their acting chops to the table, and don’t disappoint. Jennifer Lawrence is fine, though she seemed as if she was just tired of it all and wanted to get through the film – which would explain why she was blue for so little of it. I was little worried about Sophie Turner (and her accent) before going in, but she slapped those worries down smartly. She was great, maintaining a happy and light-hearted demeanour while also conveying the sense of strength crucial to a character of Jean Grey’s immense power. Nobody in the cast hugely disappointed, which really is a victory when you consider how large an ensemble it is.

For all its flaws, Apocalypse is still quite enjoyable. Bryan Singer‘s direction, supervising all of the elements that just seem to fit so nicely together, obscures the flaws in the script (and covers up some of the boringness) enough to ensure you have a good time – at least the first time you see it. I’m not sure that I’d bother with a second viewing; I’d prefer to rewatch X2,which is still the best in the franchise. The third act of Apocalypse is just too smashy-smashy – that is, it’s just one long fight sequence with the now-seemingly-obligatory fate of the entire world in the balance. I won’t give anything away, but, then, there really isn’t that much to give away.

It’s better than Civil War, and it’s certainly better than Dawn of Justice. I’ll be interested to see Marvel’s Doctor Strange and DC’s Suicide Squad, if only to see how they compare to Apocalypse and Fox’s other entry of 2016, Deadpool (which is the best of the four). As it stands currently, Fox is ahead this year – at least in my books.

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